The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

In the galleries: Objects of ruin build images of D.C. history

Artist uses construction debris that normally wouldn’t merit a second look

“Unrepresented, but Present” by Joey Enriquez. (Vivian Doering/Hamiltonian Artists)
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At the height of European colonialism, encounters with abandoned ancient sites in conquered lands inspired the building of simulated ruins in the gardens of French palaces and British country houses. Joey Enriquez’s “Ruined on a Riverbank” derives from a similar impulse, but rather than position architectural fragments amid grass, trees and flowers, the D.C. artist has placed them in the blank white space that is Hamiltonian Artists.

Construction detritus found during Enriquez’s runs along the Potomac River sparked the sculptural assemblages, made mostly of brick but also concrete, mortar and decorative metal fencing. One other artifact is a bent D.C. license plate, planted at the bottom of an ungainly stack of bricks titled “Unrepresented, but Present.” The political implications of that piece are furthered by a few enlarged details from maps and land plats, including one from 1942 from the Chevy Chase Land Co., which long restricted the sale of property to Black and Jewish people.

Also on the walls are three sculptural paintings made, in part, of brick dust. Enriquez mixed the russet powder with dirt, gesso and paint and smeared it on canvases. One picture, divided between a brick-red top and a loam-brown bottom, is in the formal tradition of color field painting. Another, more chaotic piece is folded and clumped and incorporates bricks as well as their crumbled remains.

The goal is “to frame and attempt to reconcile histories of those that have lived and worked in the District for decades,” notes Enriquez’s statement. Just as notable, though, is the show’s visual impact. By taking ordinary, if decayed, stuff and exhibiting it in detached isolation, the artist offers a fresh view of things that otherwise wouldn’t rate a second glance. As building materials, the bricks are old and nearly obsolete. As art objects, they’re something new.

Joey Enriquez: Ruined on a Riverbank Through May 7 at Hamiltonian Artists, 1353 U St. NW.

Emerging Aboriginal Artists

An Australian Aboriginal “dreaming,” as the term is rendered in English, is a creation myth specific to a tribe or a person. A dreaming is associated with a particular creature or substance, which explains the titles of the elaborately patterned paintings in “Emerging Aboriginal Artists” at the Watergate Gallery. The works made at Warlukurlangu: Artists of Yuendumu, an Aboriginal-owned art center in central Australia, include such pictures as Chantelle Nampijinpa Robertson’s “Emu Dreaming” and Natasha Nakamarra Oldfield’s “Snake Dreaming.”

Oldfield’s work features a reptilian outline, defined entirely by two rows of blue dots, that curves across a field of white dabs. That’s as representational as the paintings get. Most appear abstract, with occasional symbolic details: The repeated motifs of “Emu Dreaming” include a simplified depiction of the massive bird’s three-toed footprint.

The striking designs are traditional, although painted with acrylic pigment by artists who are mostly women, a relatively new force in Aboriginal art. The color schemes often evoke dry earth, and blue is rare, even in Robertson’s labyrinthine “Water Dreaming.” A few white-on-black pictures suggest adornments painted on dark skin, while the arrays of interlocked dots and dashes resemble beadwork. Each picture is an intricate little world, whether painted, assembled or dreamed.

Emerging Aboriginal Artists Through May 7 at Watergate Gallery, 2552 Virginia Ave. NW.

Terry Parmalee

Like a group of more-celebrated (and mostly male) local painters who were roughly her contemporaries, Terry Parmalee has an affinity for clean, bright colors. She’s not known, however, for pouring, staining or spattering pigment. The pictures in “Wave Songs: Terry Parmalee’s Works of the Eighties” at Pazo Fine Art feature shapes that are fluid and curving, yet always hard-edged. The artist, a longtime Washingtonian who is 91, has been most active as a printmaker, and brought that sensibility to these paintings, most of which date from 1981.

After a decade overseas that included printmaking studies in Japan, Parmalee settled in the Washington area in the mid-1960s. She earned a master’s in painting at American University and embarked on a teaching career. Some of her prints are representational, but these paintings are abstract. Their tightly arrayed ripples and ovals can be read as forms from nature, but rarely as specific objects.

The paintings began as drawings, and the penciled boundaries are clearly visible. Occasionally, Parmalee leaves an outlined area unfilled with color, which is just one of the ways she employs white space to add a sense of drama. Her hues can be as sweet and simple as titles such as “Boysenberry Sherbet” suggest, but there’s a sophisticated sense of tension in the way the colors overlap, juxtapose or entirely disappear.

Wave Songs: Terry Parmalee’s Works of the Eighties Through May 12 at Pazo Fine Art, 4228 Howard Ave., Kensington, Md. Open by appointment.

Colin Taylor

Washington looks a bit Mediterranean in “3 Days in D.C.: A Postcard from the U.K.,” Colin Taylor’s show at Calloway Fine Art and Consulting. The painter’s sketchy, semiabstract landscapes feature large planes of tan and off-white, set off by blocks of azure sky. Maybe that’s how the city appears to Taylor, who lives in grayer Manchester, England.

This set of canvases began with a brief visit to Washington in fall 2021, immediately after flights from Britain were restored. Taylor made drawings and took photos of Georgetown, the Wharf and perhaps other neighborhoods — most scenes are too impressionistic for the locations to be pinpointed — and then returned to his studio. The collected images became pictures that reveal something of their origins: Loose charcoal lines underlie the soft colors, as if the original drawings had only partially transmuted into paintings.

Taylor’s geometric forms hint at universal archetypes, while the scrawled lines suggest motion. The figures in “Crowdscape: Wisconsin & M” could be ghosts, or simply people in a hurry. Or maybe it’s the painter who was in a rush, eager to capture an instant for all time.

Colin Taylor: 3 Days in D.C.: A Postcard From the U.K. Through May 7 at Calloway Fine Art and Consulting, 1643 Wisconsin Ave. NW.

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